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School Kids Benefit From Mindfulness Programs

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Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. A new study says that adding a mindfulness based stress reduction program to middle schools may help reduce kid’s stress and trauma.  

"High-quality structured mindfulness programs have the potential to really improve students' lives in ways that I think can be really meaningful over the life course," said lead author Dr. Erica Sibinga of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Children in many U.S. cities are at an increased risk of stresses and traumas due to the effects of community drug use, violence, multigenerational poverty, limited education and economic opportunities, Sibinga and her colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

 The study involved 300 students, in grades five through eight, at two Baltimore public schools. Children were randomly selected for either a twelve - week mindfulness based stress reduction program or health classes to take during the school day.

Nearly all the students were from low-income families and African-American.

The mindfulness program contained material about meditation, yoga and the mind, body connection; practice of those techniques; and group discussion.

The program helped the children be aware of their response to what was happening to them at the time.

"It allows them to not only know what is happening, but to stop and take three breaths and figure out how they want to respond to what is happening the present moment," Sibinga told Reuters Health.

By the end of the program, children in the mindfulness program had lower levels of general health problems, depression, recurrent thoughts about negative experiences and other symptoms of stress and trauma compared to the children enrolled in the health classes only.

Sibinga said the differences would be enough for the students to notice in their day-to-day lives.

The researchers acknowledge some limitations to the research, like children missing some classes and possibly being exposed to mindfulness practices outside the sessions.

While Sibinga acknowledged that she couldn’t say if the program would have the same results in other student populations, she suspected there would be benefits.

The next step is to look at how to spread the program to other schools, and look at how the program may work, she said.

"It doesn’t get us off the hook of trying to reduce the sources of trauma in our urban life," she said. But the study suggests adding structured mindfulness programs in urban settings would be beneficial, she added.

Some private schools in the U.S. have already implemented mindfulness classes in their school programs and have reported positive effects such as fewer behavioral problems and an increased ability to focus during class on school work.

Sources: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-mindfulness-stress-school-idUSKBN0U12MY20151218

 

Parenting

AAP: Poverty Threatens Children’s Health

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending that pediatricians include a question about poverty to their wellness exams.  Many experts agree, and studies support, that poverty can have a major impact on a child’s heath.

The AAP’s new recommendation states that pediatricians should start assessing children for their poverty status. The screening begins with a single question — asking parents whether they have difficulty in making ends meet at the end of the month.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), there are more than 16 million U.S. children (22% of all children) living below the federal poverty level of $23,550 a year for a family of four.

Growing evidence suggests that the stress of not having safe and secure housing, regular meals and a stable home environment can lead to significant health problems in children.

“We know children living in poverty have more chronic disease, more severe chronic disease, and have poor early brain development which can impact them when they get to school, and lead to poor academic performance,” says Dr. Benard Dreyer, president of the AAP. “Pediatricians deal on a daily basis with the intersection between poverty and health and the well being of children. They understand that they actually aren’t separate.”

The recommendation offers a process to make it easier for doctors who aren’t sure about how to address the issue. The screening doesn’t have to be performed by the doctor, but can be part of a checklist that parents fill out while waiting for their well child visit, or, in larger practices, could be conducted by a quick interview with office staff or social workers.

Pediatricians are also given guidelines to help connect financially struggling families with the proper resources to help them find local housing bureaus, food pantries and even job listings. The hope, says Dreyer, is to help the 50% of families who currently qualify for additional support but aren’t getting it to access the resources they need.  “Many pediatricians are already doing this, and helping families who have been evicted or connecting them to local food pantries. What we want to do is to give them more resources,” says Dreyer.

Children in deep poverty, whose family income is below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, do even worse on health and development indicators than children in poverty according to a study released by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The study compared the wellbeing of children in deep poverty to children that are poor, but not in deep poverty, and to non-poor children.

The worse off the family’s financial situation is, the more likely a child will suffer from health and developmental problems such as stress, anxiety, obesity and elevated lead levels.

With the recommendation, the academy is also urging state and federal lawmakers to expand existing housing, food and health programs. “In order for kids to thrive, we recognize that the community, family and social aspects of their existence may be even more important than many of the medical things they may be dealing with,” says Dreyer. “Poverty is the most serious non communicable disease that children have — and it’s the most common.”

The new recommendations were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Story Source: Alice Park, http://time.com/4251653/pediatricians-should-screen-all-children-for-poverty/

http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html

 

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